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"At The Throttle"
by Mark Bassett, Executive Director

A weekly series of columns originally published in the Ely Times 
Mark Bassett is the Executive Director of the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation, operator of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. He can be reached at the museum (775) 289-2085 ext. 7 or e-mail: director@nnry.com

 


Time Warp Photography
19 September 2007

 

Upcoming Photo Shoots
Nevada Northern
Heber Valley
Feb. 1–3, 2008
Feb. 4–6, 2008
Feb. 8–10, 2008
Feb. 11–13, 2008
Feb. 15–17, 2008 (Cancelled)

If you think you were born one hundred years too late to witness the glory of steam railroading, then I have good news for you: you weren't. There still exists a place steam locomotives still rule the rails here. Passenger trains are still made up with cars whose origins date back as far as 1872. These wooden coaches, coupled with a baggage/railway post office combination car are pulled by one of the sweetest steam locomotives still in existence: Locomotive 40, a 4-6-0 that rolled out of the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1910. Still steaming today, locomotive 40 epitomizes the classic lines of a passenger locomotive from the turn of the last century.

Should there be a mishap on the tracks here, we send for the big hook: a century old operating steam powered wrecking crane. This wrecking crane is pulled by a ninety-eight year old, 2-8-0 steam locomotive that looks like it just rolled out of the American Locomotive Company shops. The wreck train consists of the crane, a tank car, flatcar, tool car, outfit car and, of course, a caboose. Once the wreck train arrives on site, the crane is blocked up and laboriously turns to the derailed piece of equipment as men scramble over the wreckage, rigging chains and getting ready. The big hook is lowered and chains are wrapped around the derailed car. Then the men fall back, the ground guide signals the operator to raise the hook and quietly, (yes quietly) the hook begins to rise and the derailed car is pulled up into the air and put back on to the rails, all with steam power.

A snapshot out of the last century that was taken last year. Locomotive 93 is heading up the hill with a mixed freight on a cold winter morning.
(Photo by Giovanni Donato)

Of course, once the tracks are cleared, it's time to get on with the business of railroading. Freight trains can once again roll and so will ore trains. Most of the freight in the last century moved in boxcars. No self-respecting railroad would be without boxcars - and our railroad is no different. We have four wooden boxcars built in 1912 that are in top condition and ready for their next load.

This was a time when steam moved mountains. The real business of our railroad was copper and copper was king! It was the reason that the railroad was built in the first place and ore trains ran day and night, year round. The demand for copper was insatiable. It was the miracle metal that made all of the newfangled inventions, such as the electric light and the telephone, possible. Today our ore trains still move from the mine to the mill—steam powered, of course.

And what you see here is not a mishmash of equipment from different railroads or different countries, nor is the equipment prettified or garish. This is original railroad equipment from right here, in the original paint schemes. All of this equipment has been on the property for many, many decades and in one or two cases more than a century, all of it still operating on the original track that was graded and laid a century ago.

Of course, locomotives, rolling stock, and tracks are a big and obvious part of this railroad, but still just part of what makes a railroad work. You also need the infrastructure: Enginehouse, machine shop, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, depot, and dispatcher building. Oh and don't forget, the locomotives go nowhere without a coaling tower and water standpipes. We have those too, the original ones!

Considered by William L. Withuhn, Curator, History of Technology & Transportation at the Smithsonian Institution,

"Among all railroad historic sites anywhere in North America, the Nevada Northern Railway complex at East Ely is—no question in my view—the most complete, most authentic, and best cared-for, bar none. It's a living American treasure and a standout one. Historic tracks, original depot and office building, enginehouse, freight shed, three original steam locomotives, five historic and rare wooden passenger cars, Kennecott diesel engines, 60 early freight cars, working machine shop, foundry—even the coaling tower and water tower that are icons of the site—everything is still there."

So where can you travel back in time and experience the grandeur that is steam railroading? Standing out front is the Nevada Northern Railway, a National Historic Landmark in Ely Nevada. And we offer incredible opportunities to experience steam railroading up close and photograph it.

The Nevada Northern Railway Museum will be hosting three steam spectacular photo shoot in February 2008. It is the 9th Annual Nevada Northern Railway Photo Shoot or what we like to call the Winter Steam Spectacular.

Joel Jensen, an award-wining photographer, has taken outstanding photos during the event. And in Joel's own words . . .

"If you like steam, have we got it for you! Clouds and clouds of it, once again, our railroad will strut its stuff in sub-zero degree weather (or close to it). Both steam locomotives; #93, a 2-8-0 built in 1909 and #40, a 4-6-0 built in 1910 will be running! Both locomotives will be pulling vintage freight and passenger cars that are original to the railroad. Snow? We've had it on previous winter spectaculars, 6 inches of it during the 1999 version. Sub-zero? We hit -5 in 2001, and you should have seen the frost on the sagebrush. Sun? How about cobalt blue skies during the shoot. Point being, we've offered up just about every type of meteorological conditions that wintertime Ely experiences, including shirtsleeve weather."

If you think that steam locomotives 93 and 40 look good on an 85-degree day in August, wait 'till you see them on a zero-degree day in February. They look pretty good in a snowstorm too, billowing white clouds of steam plus plumes of black & gray smoke that tower above the canyons and valleys.

Bottom Line? World-class photography. Participants have won numerous photo contests, recording timeless scenes of a historical railroad that is second to none. Many of the "Winter Spectacular" photos rival the best that National Geographic has to offer.

You'll freeze your butt off (hopefully), but we'll keep the fires burning in the cabooses. True, you may have to have your frostbitten fingers, toes, and nose amputated . . . but when you see your photos, you will be glad that you gave up a body part or two for images that will last a lifetime.

For the third year in a row, the Heber Valley Railroad will be offering photo shoots in between the Nevada Northern Railway photo shoots. The two railroads have teamed up to offer an exceptional opportunity to photograph steam locomotives in the winter. The combined efforts of the two railroads will give you the opportunity to photograph three steam locomotives with vintage freight and passenger equipment in winter settings. Scenery will include rail yards, mines, ghost towns, mountains, and valleys. This is not an opportunity to be missed!

Make your reservations early; there are a limited number of participant slots in each photo session. Because both 2007 photo sessions sold out very early, an additional photo shoot was added in February. The dates at the Nevada Northern are February 1–3, and February 8–10. The dates for the Heber Valley Photo Shoot are February 4–6 and 11–13, 2008.

This is the best of both worlds. You can photograph scenes from the decades ago with all of the conveniences of modern civilization. For more information and to make reservations contact the museum, toll-free, at (866) 407-8326.

 

 

Call Us 1-866-40STEAM or 1-866-407-8326
email: info@nnry.com

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All Rights Reserved - Page Last Updated 17 January 2008
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